I Spent A Week with A Mentally Ill Neighbor

A lot of people who have died or people roaming the streets just didn’t have the right care. People amongst us are bipolar. Some have dementia, schizophrenia, and many other illness. Some children who get flogged by their parents for being dull may be battling autism, dyslexia and many other disabilities. We need more awareness.

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I am traumatized.

This week has been a crazy week. I have lived in fear. The fear of being attacked or being burned in my sleep… Let me start from the top.

When I moved in, there was a lady, she barely spoke to anyone and her mother lived with her (so I found out). Her mother was a Pastor. She was also a marriage counselor even though she had just come out of a divorce. She also wrote a book on Marriage, which she dropped on my friend’s foot mat. This woman was nice and mean, depending on her mood. When I greet her, she sometimes would answer warmly, other times she’d pretend like she didn’t see me. So I assumed she wasn’t in the mood or probably had mood swings.

She and her daughter fought so often till the lady eventually moved out. The woman pretty much fought anybody who dared knock on her door. She fought one of the new tenants, who harmlessly knocked on her door to ask if it was her car blocking him. She warned him never to knock on her door again in his life. She gave similar warnings to the caretaker, her son and pretty much everybody.

Early in the mornings she’ll wake sing, pray normal devotion. Cook sometimes. Barely ever came out. She seemed pretty normal. She was so normal that everybody just assumed she was a bitch (no offence). I’m guessing her children too. Everybody cut off. She never paid bills. So when the tenants chose to switch transformers, no one bothered knocking on her door. We just disconnected her light. Since her daughter left, the rent was not renewed, so she was served a quick notice, she kept throwing it away.

One day she brought policemen to arrest 2 responsible men in the compound, she said they were threatening her life, hitting her wall and they tried to kill her. The landlord had to ascertain the credibility of these men and one of the guys gave the policemen provisions. So they were off the hook. She pulled many more stunts. Next thing I started noticing spoiled food outside her house, random things to be honest. Some people will visit and keep food. She never let them in, so the food just ended up outside till it spoiled.

All was normal or should I say seemed normal till this last week. Children were playing in the compound, she threw a tantrum, lit paper and flung at them, poured hot water. When parents reacted she took a bucket filled with her urine and feaces and poured at the kids. She didn’t stop there. She threw out more things the next day. The corridor of the person downstairs was a mess, the major entrance, a mess. The walls, a mess. She boasted that no one could do anything.

Everyday, I went to work, I returned to something new. She tore her window net with the broken mirror glass that sat by the pane. I told my other neighbors that this woman was mentally ill, they laughed and taught I was insulting her. I had mentioned it in the past too. After she tore her window and started pouring out her biological waste, it became evident. The caretaker called the police. She told the police he tried to rape her. It was just crazy. They called her daughter and her daughter wanted nothing to do with her mother.

Every day I slept hoping she wouldn’t burn the house down or attack me at the balcony or something. I pitied her but I was clueless. I didn’t know how to help. Anyway, on Saturday, I came home and met my aloe Vera plant on the floor, cigarette butts and gin at my doorstep. I woke up, Sunday morning and saw faeces splashed on my neighbor’s wall, urine, faeces littered. The woman’s door open. I had to inquire. I was told 4 men were hired. One climbed the ladder and tried to access the house through her torn window and he saw her with a cutlass and dagger. He ran for his life. They recruited more guys. When they successfully broke down her door, she splashed poop on them and ran frantically. She was captured, her mother was called and she was taken to Yaba left. Apparently, she had a card there. She probably stopped taking her meds. 

Her house was empty, just an overturned bed, cigarette butts, gin bottles and faeces in buckets and on the floor. We signed to ensure, she never comes back and is left in the care of family or the govt. Her children left her in their minds, she is probably a witch. Nollywood doesn’t help sef. They portray madness as the payment for evil. We are not aware.

A lot of people who have died or people roaming the streets just didn’t have the right care. People amongst us are bipolar. Some have dementia, schizophrenia, and many other illness. Some children who get flogged by their parents for being dull may be battling autism, dyslexia and many other disabilities. We need more awareness. They deserve love and care. We also need to know what to do, who to call, where to go, whose help to seek.

It has been a crazy week and an eye opening week as well. Still traumatized. Wish I could unsee somethings. They’ve washed the walls 5 times but the marks are still there. She’s in a better place now.

I shared this story on twitter and I realized, Mental illness is not taken seriously in this country. This is a true life story about my mentally ill neighbor and how Nigeria has not helped. This is my little step in creating awareness. I have shared a more detailed story here. if you know other ways, please share in the comment section.

Responses

  1. Helandres
    Heart touching and eye opening. Thank you for this piece. At some point though,i was finding it a bit confusing differentiating your neighbour from her mum or her daughter. A bit of a mixup or so i think…but really inspiring read.
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  2. Eddie
    Wow! Thanks for sharing this story. It’s true our culture/society tries to attribute mental health problems to spirituality, etc. Many times it may be reactive (due to stress, drugs, etc) or it may be purely biological. As long as we continue to do this, people won’t get help they need medically or the support they need socially and that’s just sad. Seeing how traumatizing these events were I hope you’ve been able to talk to someone about it as well.

    As an aside, I was quite confused about who you were talking about, whether it was the daughter or the mother but i think you were talking about the mother really. Giving them (pseudo)names may help reduce the confusion (ing uture).

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